It is natural to turn from this story of the Templars to the Round
Church in the Temple, which is their chief memorial. We leave the roar
and rattle of Fleet Street, and pass through the low Gateway of the
Inner Temple into the narrow lane which leads us between the gross
modern buildings, called after Oliver Goldsmith and Dr. Johnson, to the
west end of the Church–the west end, which is formed by the round
building which we have already mentioned.

The Gate-House beneath which we have passed is in itself a building of
no ordinary interest. It is, as we now see it, a modern (1905) version
of an old timber and rough-cast house, with projecting upper stories,
pleasantly contrasting with the Palladian splendour of the adjoining
Bank. It was built ‘over and beside the gateway and the lane’ in 1610 by
one John Bennett, and was perhaps designed by Inigo Jones. The room on
the first floor was, there is every reason to suppose, used by the
Prince of Wales as his Council Chamber for the Duchy of Cornwall. It
contains some fine Jacobean and Georgian panelling, an admirable
eighteenth-century staircase, and an elaborate and beautiful Jacobean
plaster ceiling, with the initials, motto, and feathers of Prince Henry,
who died 1612.

This is No. 17, Fleet Street. No. 16, to the west of it, with the sign
of the Pope’s Head, was the shop of Bernard Lintot, who published Pope’s
‘Homer,’ and later of Jacob Robinson, the bookseller and publisher, with
whom Edmund Burke lodged when ‘eating his dinners’ as a student of the
Middle Temple.

The Gate-House escaped the Fire of London, and, having been restored, is
now preserved to the public use by the London County Council.[17] It
forms an appropriate introduction to those narrow lanes and quiet Courts
and that lovely Church, whose pavements once resounded with the tread of
the mail-clad champions of Christendom, and echo now with the softer
footfall of bewigged, begowned Limbs of the Law. Dull and prosaic must
he be indeed who cannot here feel the thrill of imagination which
stirred the soul of Tom Pinch as he wandered through these Courts:

‘Every echo of his footsteps sounded to him like a sound from the old
walls and pavements, wanting language to relate the histories of the
dim, dismal rooms; to tell him what lost documents were decaying in
forgotten corners of the shut-up cellars, from whose lattices such
mouldy sighs came breathing forth as he went past; to whisper of dark
bins of rare old wine, bricked up in vaults among the old foundations of
the Halls; or mutter in a lower tone yet darker legends of the
cross-legged knights, whose marble effigies were in the Church’ (‘Martin

The Round part of the Church of the Knights Templars, which we now see
lying below us, is one of the very few instances of Norman work left in
London–the only instance, save the superb fragments of St.
Bartholomew’s Church and the splendid whole of the Tower of London. It
was dedicated, as we have seen, in 1185 to St. Mary by Heraclius,
Patriarch of Jerusalem. This fact was recorded on a stone over the door,
engraved in the time of Elizabeth, and said by Stow to be an


A ROUND CHURCH of the Order of Knights Templars (dedicated in 1185). The
oblong nave is seen through the pillars of polished Purbeck marble

accurate copy of an older one. It also proclaimed an Indulgence of sixty
days to annual visitors, the earliest known example, I believe, of this
particular form of taxation. The Church was again dedicated in 1240. The
rectangular portion of the Church, the Eastern portion added to the
Western Round, was now probably reconstructed, supplanting a former
chancel or choir, just at the period when the new Pointed style had
ousted the round Norman.

The circular type of church is not peculiar to the Order of Templars, as
we have seen, or even to the Christians, but the choice of it was due in
this case to the practice of imitating the architecture, as the
topography, of the Holy Places at Jerusalem. In England, Round Churches
occur at Ludlow and Cambridge (1101), built before the Knights of the
Temple were established. St. Sepulchre at Northampton is possibly a
Templar Church, but the Round Church at Little Maplestead in Essex
belongs to the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, and was built by the
Knights Hospitallers.

The Temple Church escaped the Fire of London as by a miracle, for the
flames came as near as the Master’s House at the East End. It escaped
the fire of 1678, when the old Chapel[18] of St. Anne, once perhaps the
scene of the initiation of the Knights Templars, lying at the junction
of Round and Rectangle, was destroyed by gunpowder to save the church.
But it could not escape the destroying hands of the nineteenth-century
Goths. For here, between 1824 and 1840, the great Gothic Revivalists
indulged in one of their most ineffable and ineffaceable triumphs of
intemperate enthusiasm. The Round part of the Church was almost rebuilt,
and the old carvings were supplanted by inferior modern work. The
conical roof was added; the horrid battlements banished. The old marble
columns were removed and replaced by new ones, to obtain which the old
Purbeck quarries were reopened. This marble takes an extraordinarily
high polish, and presents a surface so clean and lustrous as to be
almost shocking in its contrast to our dingy London atmosphere, and
buildings begrimed with dirt and soot.

The many brasses, which Camden praised, have disappeared; the rich
collection of tablets and monuments and inscribed gravestones that once
pleased the eye of Pepys, and formed a feast of heraldic ornament, has
been dispersed, and found sanctuary in the tiny Churchyard without, on
the north side of the Church, or in the Triforium. The floor of the
Church was, at the same time, wisely lowered to its original level, and
covered with a pavement of tiles designed after the pattern of the
remains of old ones found there, or in the Chapter House of Westminster.

A continuous stone bench, or sedile, which runs round the base of the
walls was added at this period, together with the delightful arcade
above it, with grotesque and other heads in the spandrels. The wheel
window–a lovely thing–was uncovered and filled with stained glass, and
the windows in the circular aisle of the Round have since been filled by
Mr. Charles Winston with stained glass which is good, but the colour of
which it is absurd to compare, as Mr. Baylis does, with the blues and
rubies of the glass of the best period. It is to be hoped that the
remaining windows will not be filled with coloured glass, as Mr.
Baylis[19] suggests, for the interior of the Round is too dark already.

The result of all this Gothic reconstruction is that, save for the old
rough stones in the exterior Round walls, and some of the ornate
semicircular arches, the Templars’ Church exists no more. The grandeur,
beauty, and historical interest of their building can be gathered now
from old engravings only; the monuments of many famous men, in judicial
robes and with shields rich in heraldry, a representative gallery of
unbroken centuries, which once crowded its floors, must be judged by
broken and scattered fragments. What we have is a reconstruction such as
the Restorers chose to give us–that is, a light and very pleasing Early
English interior, fitted into a Round Norman exterior, beneath the
remaining arcade of round arches and windows.[20]

If the enthusiasm of the Restorers, however, led them to destroy so that
we can never forgive them for having taken from us original work for the
sake of indulging their own fancy, yet it is evident that there was
much for them legitimately to undo. There were plaster and stucco, and
dividing gallery and whitewashed ceiling, and all the usual horrors of
the eighteenth century, to be got rid of. The graves and monuments were
historically interesting, but they crowded the little church unbearably.
And at least the Restorers have given us beautiful work of their own,
and a seemly and beautiful sanctuary worthy of the place.

The Round is entered by a western door–a massive oaken door superbly
hung upon enormous hinges, quite modern. It closes beneath a
semicircular arch enriched by deeply-recessed columns with foliated
capitals of the transitional Norman style, though all this work, like
the Gothic Porch which contains it, is modern restoration. The scene as
we enter the Church is one of striking singularity. Near at hand is the
arcaded sedile about the walls of the Round, and through six clustered
columns of great elegance, made of polished Purbeck marble, which
support the dome, we catch a glimpse of the polished marble columns in
the Choir, the lancet windows in the North and South walls, and the
three stained windows of the East End, beneath which the gilded Reredos
glitters. And through the painted windows of the Round itself the light
strikes upon a wonderful series of monumental recumbent figures, some of
which are made of this flashing Purbeck marble too. It is a strange,
unforgettable sight, that summons up unbidden the vision of the
Red-Cross Knights, to the tread of whose mailed feet these pavements
rang, when, beneath their baucéant banners, they gathered here to the
Dedication of their Temple.

These monuments, though re-arranged and restored indeed by Richardson,
1840, are still of great interest. Nine only out of eleven formerly
mentioned remain. Two groups of four each lie beneath the Dome, with the
ninth close by the South wall, balancing a stone coffin near the North.
Two of them belong to the twelfth century and seven to the thirteenth,
and these silent figures wear the armour of that period–the chain mail
and long surcoats, the early goad spurs, the long shields and swords,
the belts, and mufflers of mail.

The Monuments in the Temple Church have been frequently described, by
Stow and Weever, for instance, by Dugdale,[21] and by Gough.[22] The
tradition that they represent ‘ancient British Kings,’ or even
necessarily Templars, has been long exploded. The theory that every
figure whose legs are crossed in effigy belonged to that Order has been
consigned to the limbo of vulgar errors. But five of these effigies are
mentioned by Stow as being of armed Knights ‘lying cross-legged as men
vowed to the Holy Land, against the infidels and unbelieving Jews.’ And
it is very probable that cross-legs did indicate those who had either
undertaken a Crusade or vowed themselves to the Holy Land. At any rate,
I know no evidence to show that this was _not_ the symbolism by which
the medieval mason in England and Ireland chose to indicate the

None of these remarkable monuments can with certainty be identified. Of
those now grouped upon the South side Stow says: ‘The first of the
crosse-legged was W. Marshall, the elder Earl of Pembroke, who died
1219; Wil. Marshall, his son, the second, and Gilbert Marshall, his
brother, also Earl of Pembroke, slayne in a tournament at Hertford,
besides Ware,’ in 1241. And this may or may not be so. The fourth is
nameless; the fifth, near the wall, is possibly that of Sir Robert
Rosse, who, according to Stow, was buried here.

Of the group upon the North side, only that of the cross-legged knight
in a coat of mail and a round helmet flattened on top, whose head rests
on a cushion, and whose long, pointed shield is charged with an
escarbuncle on a diapered field, can with any probability be named. For
these are the arms of Mandeville (_de Magnavilla_)–‘quarterly, or and
gules, an escarbuncle, sable’–and this monument of Sussex marble gives
us the first example of arms upon a sepulchral figure in England.[23] It
is supposed to be the effigy of Geoffrey Mandeville, whom Stephen made
first Earl of Essex, and Matilda Constable of the Tower. A ferocious and
turbulent knight, he received an arrow-wound at last in an attack upon
Burwell Castle, and was carried off by the Templars to die. But, as he
died under sentence of excommunication, it is said that they hung his
body in a lead coffin upon a tree in the Old Temple Orchard, until
absolution had been obtained for him from the Pope. Then they brought
him to the new Temple and buried him there (1182).

The Choir, or rectangular part of the Church, of which the nave is
broader than the aisles, but of the same height, is a beautiful example
of the Early English style, and is lighted by five lancet triplet
windows. By the Restorers the old panelling and the beautiful
seventeenth-century Reredos were removed. Tiers of deplorable pews,
deplorably arranged, and a very feeble Gothic Reredos[24] were
substituted. The roof, supported by the Purbeck marble clustered columns
that culminate in richly-moulded capitals, was painted with shields and
mottoes in painstaking imitation of the thirteenth century. The windows
at the East End were filled with very inferior modern stained glass,
none of it of the least interest, poor in colour and wretchedly ignorant
in design–ignorant, that is, of the rules which guided the art of the
medieval glazier.

A bust of the ‘Judicious’ Hooker, Master of the Temple Church, and
author of the ‘Ecclesiastical Polity,’ the grave of Selden near the
South-West corner of the Choir, and above it a mural tablet to his
memory, are the monuments of known men most worthy of attention. The
fine fourteenth-century sepulchral effigy near the double piscina of
Purbeck marble is supposed to be that of Silvester de Everden, Bishop of

The Organ, frequently reconstructed and finally renewed by Forster and
Andrews, 1882, has been famous for generations. It was originally built
by Bernard Schmidt. Dr. Blow and Purcell, his pupil, played upon it in
competition with that built by Harris. The decision of this Battle of
the Organs was referred to the famous, or infamous, Lord Chief Justice
Jeffreys, who was a good musician, and in this matter, at least, seems
to have proved himself a good Judge.

The _Triforium_[25] is reached by a small Norman door in the North-West
corner of the oblong. A winding staircase leads to the Penitential
Cell–4 feet long, by 2 feet 6 inches wide–where many of the Knights
were confined. To the Triforium many tablets and monuments (_e.g._, of
Plowden), once in the Church below, have been removed.

Among the epitaphs in brass, quoted at length by Dugdale, is one in
memory of John White:

‘Here lieth a John, a burning, shining light;
His name, life, actions, were all White.’

The Templars’ Church was equally divided between the two Societies of
Lawyers from ‘East to West, the North Aisle to the Middle, the South


to the Inner Temple.’ This fact, with many others, clearly indicates the
basis of perfect equality upon which the two Societies were agreed to
stand, and on which, in spite of subsequent claims to precedence on the
part of both, declared groundless by judicial authority, they will
henceforth continue. As to the Round, it appears to have been used by
both Societies in common, largely as a place of business, like the
Parvis of St. Paul’s, where lawyers congregated, and contracts were
concluded. Butler refers to this custom in his ‘Hudibras’:

‘Walk the Round with Knights o’ the Posts
About the cross-legged Knights, their hosts,
Or wait for customers between
The pillar rows in Lincoln’s Inn.’
BUTLER: _Hudibras_.

Joint property of the two Societies, also, is that exquisite example of
Georgian domestic architecture, the Master’s House (1764). This perfect
model of a Gentleman’s Town-House owes its great charm almost entirely
to its beautiful proportions, and to the appropriate material of good
red brick and stone of which it is built. It is a thousand pities that
blue slates have been allowed to supplant the good red tiles that should
form the roof. The House itself is the successor of one which was
erected (1700) after the Great Fire.[26] The original Lodge is said to
have been upon the site of the present Garden, directly in line with the
east end of the Church. In the vaults beneath this Garden many Benchers
of both Inns have been laid to rest.

In this Lodge, then, dwells the Master of the Temple Church.

‘There are certain buildings,’ says Camden, ‘on the east part of the
Churchyard, in part whereof he hath his lodgings, and the rest he
letteth out to students. His dyet he hath in either House, at the upper
end of the Bencher’s Table, except in the time of reading, it then being
the Reader’s place. Besides the Master, there is a Reader, who readeth
Divine Service each morning and evening, for which he hath his salary
from the Master.’

A Custos of the Church had been appointed by the Knights Hospitallers,
but after the Dissolution of the Monasteries the presentation of the
office was reserved to the Crown. The Church is not within the Bishop’s
jurisdiction. On appointment by the Crown, the Master is admitted
forthwith without any institution or induction. But the Master of the
Temple Church is Master of nothing else. When, in the reign of James
I., Dr. Micklethwaite laid claim to wider authority, the Benchers of
both Temples succeeded in proving to the Attorney-General that his
jurisdiction was confined to his Church.

Masters of real eminence have been few. By far the greatest was the
learned Dr. John Hooker, appointed by Elizabeth, who resigned in 1591.
Dr. John Gauden, who claimed to have written the ‘Eikon Basilike,’ was
Master of the Temple before he became Bishop of Exeter and Worcester.
And in our own day Canon Ainger added to the charm of a singularly
attractive personality the accomplishments of a scholar who devoted much
of his time to the works of another devout lover of the Temple–Charles

The Church was once connected with the Old Hall by Cloisters,
communicating with the Chapel of St. Thomas that once stood outside the
north door of it, and with the Refectory of the Priests, a room with
groined arches and corbels at the west end of the present Inner Temple
Hall, which still survives (see p. 48). Later on, Chambers were built
over the Cloisters, and the Church itself was almost stifled by the
shops and chambers that were allowed to cluster about it, along the
South Wall, and even over the Porch. Beneath the shelter of these
Cloisters the Students of the Law were wont to walk, in order to ‘bolt’
or discuss points of law, whilst ‘all sorts of witnesses Plied in the
Temple under trees.’

The Fire of 1678 burnt down the old Cloisters and other buildings at the
south-west extremity of the Church. The present Cloisters at that angle,
designed by Wren, were rebuilt in 1681, as a Tablet proudly proclaims.

The Cloister Court is completed by Lamb Building, which, though
apparently within the bounds of the Inner Temple, belongs (by purchase)
to the Middle Temple, and is named from the badge of that Inn, the Agnus
Dei, which figures over the characteristic entrance of this delightful
Jacobean building, and has now given its title to the whole Court. Here
lived that brilliant Oriental Scholar, Sir William Jones, sharing
chambers with the eccentric author of ‘Sandford and Merton,’ Thomas Day.
And it was to the attics of these buildings, where Pen and Warrington
dwelt, that Major Pendennis groped his way through the fog, piloted, as
he might be to-day, ‘by a civil personage with a badge and white apron
through some dark alleys and under various melancholy archways into
courts each more dismal than the other.’[27]

The consecrated nature of their tenement resulted in certain
inconveniences to the Lawyers. On the one hand, the Temple was a place
of Sanctuary, and its character suffered accordingly. Debtors,
criminals, and dissolute persons flocked to it as a refuge, so that it
became necessary to issue orders of Council (1614) that the Inns should
be searched for strangers at regular intervals, whilst, with the vain
view of reserving the precincts for none but lawyers, it was ordained
that ‘no gentleman foreigner or discontinuer’ should lodge therein, so
that the Inns might not be converted into ‘taverns’ (_diversoria_). On
the other hand, the benevolence of the Benchers was taxed by many
unnatural or unfortunate parents, who used the Temple as a crèche, and
left their babies at its doors. The records give many instances of
payments made towards the support of such infants, who were frequently
given the ‘place-name’ of Temple.

I have quoted from Thackeray a phrase not so over-complimentary to the
surroundings of Lamb Building.

But now, before passing on to the story of the Halls of these renowned
Societies, and the Chambers which have harboured so many famous men, I
must quote, as an introduction, the passage in which the novelist makes
amends, and nobly sums up the spirit of the life men lead there, and the
atmosphere of strenuous work and literary tradition which lightens those
‘dismal courts’ and ‘bricky towers.’

‘Nevertheless, those venerable Inns which have the “Lamb and Flag” and
the “Winged Horse” for their ensigns have attractions for persons who
inhabit them, and a share of rough comforts and freedom, which men
always remember with pleasure. I don’t know whether the student of law
permits himself the refreshment of enthusiasm, or indulges in poetical
reminiscences as he passes by historical chambers, and says, “Yonder
Eldon lived; upon this site Coke mused upon Lyttelton; here Chitty
toiled; here Barnwell and Alderson joined in their famous labours; here
Byles composed his great work upon bills, and Smith compiled his
immortal leading cases; here Gustavus still toils with Solomon to aid
him.” But the man of letters can’t but love the place which has been
inhabited by so many of his brethren or peopled by their creations, as
real to us at this day as the authors whose children they were; and Sir
Roger de Coverley walking in the Temple Gardens, and discoursing with
Mr. Spectator about the beauties in hoops and patches who are sauntering
over the grass, is just as lively a figure to me as old Samuel Johnson
rolling through the fog with the Scotch Gentleman at his heels, on their
way to Dr. Goldsmith’s chambers in Brick Court, or Harry Fielding, with
inked ruffles and a wet towel round his head, dashing off articles at
midnight for the _Covent Garden Journal_, while the printer’s boy is
asleep in the passage.’

Continue Reading


About the year 1118 certain noblemen, horsemen, religiously bent, bound
themselves by vow in the hands of the Patriarch of Jerusalem, ‘to serve
Christ after the manner of Regular Canons in chastity and obedience, and
to renounce their owne proper willes for ever.’

The Order was founded by a Burgundian Knight who had mightily
distinguished himself at the capture of Jerusalem. Hugh de Paganis was
his name. Only seven of his comrades joined the Brotherhood at first.

Their first profession was to safeguard pilgrims on their way to visit
the Holy Sepulchre, and to keep the highways safe from thieves. A rule
and a white habit were granted to this pilgrims’ police by Pope Honorius
II. Crosses of red cloth were afterwards added to their white upper
garments, and earned them the familiar title of the Red-Cross Knights.
And for their first banner they adopted the Beaucéant, the upper part of
which was black, signifying, it is said, death to their enemies; the
lower part white, symbolizing love for their friends.

Their services were rewarded and their efforts encouraged by Baldwin,
King of Jerusalem, who granted them quarters in his palace, within the
sacred enclosure of the Temple on Mount Moriah.

Hence they came to be known as the Knights of the Temple, or Knights
Templars. For Baldwin’s Palace was formed partly of a building erected
by the Emperor Justinian, partly of a mosque built by the Caliph Omar,
upon the site of Solomon’s Temple.

The Order increased rapidly in popularity. It spread over Europe and the
East, accumulating property and privileges. It was most highly
organized, and at its head was a Grand Master, who resided at first in
Jerusalem. A visit paid by the Founder, Paganis, to Henry I. in Normandy
led to the establishment of settlements in England. Cambridge,
Canterbury, Warwick, and Dover are mentioned amongst others by Stow.
Temples, ‘built after the form of the Temple near to the Sepulchre at
Jerusalem,’ were erected in many of the chief towns in England. And
this circular shape of church, modelled upon the Holy Sepulchre in
accordance with a prevailing love of imitating the holy places at
Jerusalem, as, for instance, the Stations of the Cross, was the design
adopted for the Templars’ London Churches. The date of their first
settlement in London is not certain, but about the middle of the twelfth
century they are said to have established themselves in Chancery Lane,
between Southampton Buildings and Holborn Bars. Their property, which
was afterwards to be known as the Old Temple, embraced part of the site
of what is now Lincoln’s Inn. The foundations of a round church were
discovered in 1595 near the site of the present Southampton Buildings.

But it was not long before they moved to a pleasanter site, to the ‘most
elegant spot in the Metropolis,’ as Charles Lamb declared. For, about
the year 1180, the Templars acquired a large meadow sloping down to the
broad River Thames, on the south side of Fleet Street, and stretching
from Whitefriars on the east to Essex Street on the west. Here they
built themselves a lordly dwelling-place and a splendid Church, again a
round Church upon the same sacred model, part of which still stands.
Across the way lay their recreation ground. For the site of the modern
Law Courts–that Gothic pile which we can never wholly see, and in which
Street just failed to design a truly complete, effective, and absolute
building, and failed entirely to produce a building practically suited
for its purpose–was known then as Fitchett’s Field. The scene of the
labours of the Lawyers, who have succeeded to their inheritance, was
once the tilting-ground of the Knights Templars.

Five years later, in 1185, in the presence of Henry II. and all his
Court, the dedication of the Round Church of the ‘New Temple’ took
place. The ceremony was performed by Heraclius, Patriarch of Jerusalem.

The surroundings of the ‘New Temple,’ when Henry graced it upon this
occasion with his royal presence, were extraordinarily different even
from the aspect they wore a century later.

Fleet Street itself was not yet in existence. Its neighbourhood was a
mere marsh, and Fleet Ditch, at the bottom of Ludgate Hill, was spanned
by no bridge. The two highways to the City, when the Templars first
settled at this spot, were first and foremost the River, and, secondly,
by land, the old Roman Way through Newgate, up Holborn Hill to Holborn
Bars, striking southwards from St. Mary-le-Strand, past the Roman Bath,
to the River. But seventy years later a new main route to the City was
constructed, which passed by the boundary of the Templars’ plot. For the
marshes were drained, a bridge was thrown across the Fleet, and the
‘Street of Fleetbrigge’ came into existence.

The grandeur of the ceremony of dedication and the splendour of the
Templars’ Church itself indicate clearly enough the importance of the
‘New Temple’ as the headquarters of the Order in England, and also the
waxing wealth and power of the Order itself.

For these ‘fellow-soldiers of Christ,’ as they termed themselves, ‘poor
and of the Temple of Solomon,’ had bound themselves to a vow of poverty,
but they soon changed their allegiance to Mammon. The heraldic sign of
the Winged Horse, which is now the well-known badge of the Inner Temple,
and meets the eye at every turn as we pass through the narrow lanes and
devious courts of which their property is composed, recalls and typifies
the changing purposes of the ancient Templars and their successors. For
the old crest of the Templars was a horse carrying two men, which
probably was intended to suggest their profession of helping Christian
pilgrims upon their road, but in which some saw an emblem of humiliation
and of a vow to poverty so strict that they could afford but one horse
for two knights. Whatever its significance, the badge was changed with
changing circumstances. The two riders were converted into two wings,
and the horse transformed into a Pegasus–Pegasus argent on a field
azure–upon the occasion of some Christmas Revels and pageantry held at
the Inner Temple in honour of Lord Robert Dudley, 1563, when it appears
that this emblem, typical of the soaring ambitions of the new Society,
was adopted by that Inn. The Middle Temple appropriated another badge,
which the Templars had assumed in the thirteenth century. This was the
sign of the _Agnus Dei_, the Holy Lamb, with the banner and nimbus,
which figures so prominently upon the buildings of this Inn. These
heraldic signs of Winged Horse and Holy Lamb should be encouraging to
the young litigant, who, in his first experience of the Law, may be led
to expect ‘justice without guile and law without delay’ from these legal
fraternities, supposing that, in the words of the witty skit,

‘The Lamb sets forth their innocence,
The Horse their expedition.’

The Order of Templars followed the almost invariable practice of such
Institutions in accumulating treasure at the expense of the devout, and
they succeeded more strikingly than most. By the beginning of the
fourteenth century they had long abandoned all pretence to the
performance of their original duties, but had at least earned the
reputation of being exceedingly wealthy. The Treasury, indeed, of these
devotees of Poverty was a prominent feature of their House, and they
seem to have acted as Bankers, to whom the charge of money and jewels
was entrusted in those troublous times.

Here King John stored his Royal Treasury; here he often lodged, seeking
refuge from his Barons; and here he passed the night before he signed
the Great Charter at Runnymede. Henry III. followed his example in
endowing the Temple with manors and privileges, whilst from his
guardian, Hubert de Burgh, Earl of Kent, whom he had imprisoned in the
Tower, he extracted all the Treasure that careful nobleman had committed
to the custody of the Master of the Temple.

Hither came King Edward I., and under pretence of seeing his mother’s
jewels there laid up, this royal burglar broke open the coffers of
certain persons who had likewise lodged their money here, and took away
to the value of a thousand pounds.

Of the Templars’ Treasure House nothing now remains, but the Treasurer
survives, one of the chief officials of the Inn, whose duties correspond
roughly to those of a Bursar of an Oxford College.

The laying up of treasure upon earth is always apt to provoke the
predatory instinct, even in the breast of a Chancellor of the Exchequer,
and to the motive of greed was added, in the case of the Templars, the
unanswerable charge that they had done nothing for many years to redeem
their vows to succour Jerusalem or protect pilgrims. They were also
accused, not without reason, of indulging in odious vices, and of being
a masonic society devoted to the propagation of some heresy. The rival
fraternity of military Knights, the Order of St. John, who had settled
themselves in the rural seclusion of Clerkenwell, envied them. The Pope
himself turned against them. Philip le Bel, who seems to have been the
leading spirit in a general attack, dealt cruelly with the Order in
France, causing the chief Members of it to be put to death. In England
Edward II. contented himself with confiscating their possessions. The
Order was abolished (1312), and, by decree of the Pope,


A GLIMPSE of the Temple Church appears on the left.]

confirmed by the Council of Vienne, all their property was granted to
the Knights Hospitallers, the rival Order of St. John of Jerusalem.
Edward, however, at first ignored their claims. He granted that part of
the Templars’ domain which was not within the City boundaries, and which
is now represented by the Outer Temple, to Walter de Stapleton, Bishop
of Exeter. It was thenceforth known indifferently as Stapleton Inn,
Exeter Inn, or the Outer Temple. It passed by purchase to Robert
Devereux, Earl of Essex. Essex House was then erected, which, with its
gardens, covered the site now occupied by Essex Court, Devereux Court,
and Essex Street, and the buildings that abut upon the Strand.

The Gate at the end of Essex Street, with the staircase to the water, is
the only portion of the old building that survives. The Outer Temple was
never occupied by any College or Society of Lawyers. But the history of
the portion of the Templars’ property which lay within the liberties of
the City, indicated by Temple Bar, was destined to be very different.
This property was granted by Edward II. to Thomas, Earl of Lancaster. On
his rebellion the estate reverted to the Crown, and was granted, in
1322, to Aymer de Valence, Earl of Pembroke. He died without issue, and
Edward bestowed the property upon his new favourite, Hugh le Despencer,
upon whose attainder it passed again to the Crown. At length the claim
of the Knights Hospitallers was admitted. For in 1324 Edward II.
assigned to them ‘all the lands of the Templars,’ except, of course,
some nineteen-twentieths which King and Pope ‘touched’ in transference.
The King finally made to them an absolute grant of the whole Temple,
apart from the Outer Temple, in consideration of £100 contributed for
the wars.

What happened next it is impossible, owing to lack of documentary
evidence, with certainty to say. This absence of evidence is partly due,
no doubt, to the behaviour of Wat Tyler’s men in 1381, as quoted by
Stow. For they not only sacked and burned John of Gaunt’s noble palace,
the neighbouring Savoy, but also ‘destroyed and plucked down the houses
and lodgings of the Temple, and took out of the Church the books and
records that were in Hutches of the apprentices of the law, carried them
into the streets and burnt them.’ And later records must have
disappeared in other ways, notably in the fire of 1678. Be that as it
may, the fact with which everybody is familiar is that the Temple
property passed into the occupancy, and finally into the possession, of
two Societies of Lawyers, who existed, and still exist, on terms of
absolute equality, neither taking precedence of the other, and both
sharing equally the Round Church of the Knights Templars. These two
Societies or Inns are called after the property of the Knights within
the boundaries of the City, which they divided between them–the Inner
and the Middle Temple.

Now, the first discoverable mention of the Temple as an abode of lawyers
occurs in Chaucer’s ‘Prologue to the Canterbury Tales’ (_c._ 1387).
Geoffrey Chaucer himself, a fond tradition would have us believe, dwelt
for a while in these Courts, and was a student of the Inner Temple. Be
that as it may, he tells us

‘A manciple there was of a Temple …
Of Masters had he mo than thrice ten,
That were of Law expert and curious;
Of which there was a dozen in that house
Worthy to been Stewards of rent and land
Of any Lord that is in England,’ etc.

Here, then, we have a clear indication of a Society of Masters dwelling
in the Temple, whilst Walsingham’s account of Wat Tyler’s rebellion
refers to apprentices of the Law there. But there is nothing to indicate
the existence of the two Inns till about the middle of the fifteenth
century, when we find references to them in the Paston Letters (1440
_ff._), and in the Black Book of Lincoln’s Inn (1466 _ff._). This does
not, of course, prove that there was only one Inn before. Such, however,
is the traditional account. ‘In spite of the damage done by the rebels
under Wat Tyler,’ says Dugdale, ‘the number of students so increased
that at length they divided themselves in two bodies–the Society of the
Inner and the Society of the Middle Temple.’ Those who believe this
maintain that when, in course of natural development–rapid expansion
apparently following the rebels’ onslaught–the original Society had
attained an unwieldy bulk and outgrown the capacity of the Old Hall, a
split was made. Two distinct and divided Societies, upon a footing of
absolute equality, took the place of the parent body. A new Hall was
built, but equal rights in the Old Church and the contiguous property
were maintained.

This form of propagation by subdivision is common enough, of course, in
the vegetable and insect world, but it seems highly improbable in the
case of a learned body. It is to me an incredible dichotomy. And it is
not necessary to stretch one’s credulity so far. There are
indications–faint, it is true, but still indications–of the existence
of two Societies of Lawyers settled here on two parcels of land that
once belonged to the Knights Templars, and dating from almost the
earliest days after Edward’s confiscation.

For, according to Dugdale, who repeats a tradition which is probably
correct, the Knights Hospitallers leased the property soon after they
had acquired it to ‘divers apprentices of the Law that came from
Thavie’s Inn in Holborn’ at an annual rental of £10. This must have been
before 1348. For in that year died John Thavye, who bequeathed this Inn
to his wife, and described it in his will as one ‘in which certain
apprentices of the Law _used_ to reside’ (_solebant_). But there is also
evidence of another and earlier settlement of lawyers on this property.
Some lawyers, it is recorded, ‘made a composition with the Earl of
Lancaster for a lodging in the Temple, and so came thither and have
continued ever since.’[14] The Earl of Lancaster, as we have seen above,
held the Temple _c._ 1315-1322.

Here, then, we have indications of two Societies of Lawyers settling in
the Temple. The first body, holding from the Earl of Lancaster, may
reasonably be supposed to have had their grant confirmed by the owners
who succeeded him. The Society of the Middle Temple must be considered
the successors of those tenants. And this Society Mr. Pitt Lewis,
K.C.,[15] has traced to a former home in St. George’s Inn, a students’
hostel mentioned by Stow.

The second body, migrating from Thavye’s Inn, obtained a lease of the
part not occupied by the former, at an annual rental of £10, as Dugdale
states. And from them are descended the Inner Templars of to-day.

From the time when the Order of the Knights Hospitallers was dissolved,
till 1608, these two Societies held these two separate parcels of land
direct of the Crown by lease, paying two separate rents. Then they
discovered that James I. was beginning to negotiate a sale of the

The present of a ‘stately cup of pure gold, filled with gold pieces,’
presented by the two Societies, converted the Scholar-Monarch. On August
13, 1608, he granted a Charter to the Treasurers and Benchers of the
Inner and Middle Temple, conferring upon them the freehold of the
Temple, together with the Church, ‘for the hospitation and education of
the Professors and Students of the Laws of this Realm,’ subject to a
rent charge of £10, payable by each of the two Societies. In 1673 these
rents were extinguished by purchase by the two Societies.

This patent of James I. is the only existing formal document concerning
the relations between the Crown and the Inns, though it would be strange
indeed if no other grant or patent ever existed. It is preserved in the
Church in a chest kept beneath the Communion Table, which can only be
opened by the keys held by the two Treasurers. The importance of the
patent is, for the purpose of our investigation, that it is based almost
certainly upon documents that have disappeared, but which reached back
to the original conveyance, and it shows that there were two separate
parcels, exacting two separate rents. Moreover, it provided that _each_
Society should continue to pay a rental of £10. Now, if these two
Societies represented a division of the one parent body which had come
from Thavye’s Inn and held the _whole_ Inner and Middle Temple at a
rent of £10, it is hardly conceivable that when this supposed division
took place, each Society should have continued to pay the whole rent.
The first thing they would have divided, after dividing themselves,
would surely have been that rent of £10.[16]

That the theory of a division having taken place early caused much
wonderment is shown by a report that was rife in the seventeenth
century. This ‘report’ was to the effect that the division arose from
the sides taken by the Lawyers in the Wars of the Roses. Those wars,
however, took place after the date when there is evidence of the
existence of the two Societies. The ‘report’ represents an attempt to
explain the existence of the two Societies when their origin was already
forgotten, and was perhaps suggested by the fact that it was in the
Temple Gardens that Shakespeare placed the famous incident that led to
the Wars of the Roses:

‘PLANTAGENET. Let him that is a true-born gentleman,
And stands upon the honour of his birth,
If he suppose that I have pleaded truth,
From off this briar pluck a white rose with me.

‘SOMERSET. Let him that is no coward, nor no flatterer,
But dare maintain the party of the truth,
Pluck a red rose from off this thorn with me.

‘WARWICK. This brawl to-day,
Grown to this faction in the Temple Garden,
Shall send, between the red rose and the white,
A thousand souls to death and deadly night.’

In 1732, in order to put an end to many questions of property, an
elaborate deed of partition was agreed to by the two Inns, and forms the
final authority upon what belongs to each.

Continue Reading


The features of every ancient City are marked with the wrinkles and the
scars of Time. The narrow lanes, the winding streets, the huddled
houses, the blind alleys form, as it were, the furrows upon her aged
countenance. They contribute enormously to the charm and beauty of her
riper years, for they point to a life rich in experience and varied
reminiscences. But, like other wrinkles, they have their drawbacks. As
the bottle-neck of Bond Street, which blocks the traffic half the
season, is the direct topographical result of the river which once
flowed thereabouts, so the boundary of the property of the Knights
Templars, marked by the Inner and Middle Temple Gateways, imposes the
southern limit of Fleet Street, opposite to Street’s Gothic pile of Law
Courts and to Chancery Lane. Hence the narrowness of that famous street,
and the consequent congestion of traffic on the main route to the City.
Then come the Beauty Doctors, who smooth out the old wrinkles, and
broaden the ancient, narrow lines, which Time has cut so deeply on the
face of the Town. The old landmarks are removed, and Wren’s gateways and
buildings must disappear in order that broad, straight paths be driven
right to the sanctuary of Business.

And yet the old influences and the effects of historic movements and
historic events persist, and will persist. It may seem far-fetched to
say that everyone whose business or pleasure takes him to Fleet Street
is directly subject to the influence of the Crusades. Yet it is so. But
for those strange wars of mingled religious enthusiasm and commercial
aggression, there would have been no Templars, and had there been no
Templars, the whole nomenclature and topographical arrangement of this
part of London would have been different; for the Societies of Lawyers,
who succeeded to their property, succeeded, of course, to the boundaries
of the messuages, as to the Round Church of the Knights Templars.

Of the Temple, and the Templars, and their successors, we shall deal
more at length in their proper places. It will be convenient first to
consider what these Societies of Lawyers were and are, how they arose,
and why they settled in the particular vicinity wherein they have chosen
to set their ‘dusty purlieus.’

William the Conqueror had established the Law Courts in his Palace. The
great officers of State and the Barons were the Judges of this King’s
Court–_Aula Regis_–which developed into three distinct divisions:
King’s Bench and Common Pleas, under a Chief Justice, and Exchequer,
where a Chief Baron presided to try all causes relating to the royal
revenue. It was the business of a Norman King to ride about the country
settling the affairs of the realm, which was his estate, and
administering justice. The great Court of Justice, therefore, naturally
accompanied the King in all his progresses, and suitors were obliged to
follow and to find him, travelling for that purpose from all parts of
the country to London, to Exeter, or to York.

It was a system that was found ‘cumbersome, painful, and chargeable to
the people,’ as Stow[1] puts it, and one of the provisions of Magna
Charta accordingly enacted that the Court of Common Pleas should no
longer follow the King, but be held in some determined place. The place
determined was Westminster. The Court was held, though not at first, in
the famous Hall, which William Rufus had erected and Richard II.

It was to be expected that the fixing of the Courts would be followed by
the settlement of ‘Students in the Law and the Ministers of each
Court,’[2] as Dugdale has it, somewhere near at hand. Advocates had been
drawn at first from the ranks of the clergy. This was natural enough,
seeing that they formed the only educated class of the day. _Nullus
clericus nisi causidicus_, the historian complains. It was equally
natural that in the course of time objection should be taken to the
spectacle of the professors of Christianity wrangling at the Bar, and
monopolizing the power born of legal knowledge. Dugdale notes the first
instance of an attempt to check their presence in the Courts as
occurring at the beginning of the reign of Henry III. The clergy were at
length excluded from practising in the Civil Courts, and a privileged
class of lay Lawyers came into existence. Edward I. specially appointed
the Justices of the Court of Common Pleas to ‘ordain from every County
certain Attorneys and Lawyers of the best and most apt for their
learning and skill, who might do service to his Court and People, and
who alone should follow his Court and transact affairs therein.’

And at this date, or shortly after it, we may assume that ‘students in
the University of the Laws’[3] began to congregate in Hostels, or Inns,
of Court, in order to study as ‘apprentices’ in the Guild of Law. For,
as at Oxford or Cambridge, an Inn, or Hostel of residence, was the
natural necessary requirement of such students when they began to come
in numbers to sit at the feet of their teachers, the Masters of Law. The
earliest mention of an Inn for housing apprentices of the Law occurs in
1344, in a demise from the Lady Clifford of the house near Fleet Street,
called Clifford’s Inn, to the _apprenticiis de banco_, the lawyers
belonging to the Court of Common Pleas. And Thavie’s Inn was similarly
leased from one John Thavie, ‘a worthy citizen and armourer,’ of London,
who died in 1348. In such hostels, leased to the senior members,
voluntary associations, or guilds of teachers and learners of law would
congregate, and gradually evolve their own regulations and customs.

Other references occur to the ‘apprentices in hostels’ during this same
reign (Edward III.). And from about this date the four Inns of
Court–Gray’s Inn, Lincoln’s Inn, and the Inner and Middle
Temple–‘which are almost coincident in antiquity, similar in
constitution, and identical in purpose,’[4] begin to emerge from the
mists of the past.

It is noticeable that all the Inns of Court and Chancery cluster about
the borders of the City Ward called Faringdon Without, and were once
placed, as old Sir John Fortescue observed, ‘in the suburbs, out of the
noise and turmoil of the City.’

The Lawyers were thus conveniently placed between the seat of judicature
at Westminster and the centre of business in the City of London, and
secured the advantage of ‘ready access to the one and plenty of
provisions in the other.’ In the wall which bounds the Temple Gardens
upon the modern Embankment of the Thames is set a stone which marks the
western boundary of the Liberty of the City and the spot where Queen
Victoria received the City Sword (1900); the old Bar of the City, which
took its name from the Temple, and


THE overhanging buildings just inside Sir Christopher Wren’s Gateway in
Fleet Street (see p. 67).]

Holborn Bar, marked the limit farther north. It is to be remembered that
this famous Temple Bar did not mark the boundary of the City proper, but
only of the later extension known as the Liberty of the City, and the
Temple buildings within the Bar were yet without the narrower boundary
of the City.

Temple Bar consisted originally of a post, rails, and chain. Next, a
house of timber was erected across the street, with a narrow gateway and
entry on the south side under the house.[5] This was superseded about
1670 by the stone gate-house, designed by Christopher Wren, which was
the scene of so many historic pageants when Lord Mayors have received
their Sovereigns, and presented to them the keys of the City. It was
here, notably, that the Lord Mayor delivered the City sword to good
Queen Bess when she rode to St. Paul’s to return thanks for the victory
over the Spanish Armada. Hereon, as upon London Bridge, the heads of
famous criminals or rebels were stuck to warn the passers-by; and in the
pillory here stood Titus Oates and Daniel de Foe–the latter for
publishing his scandalous and seditious pamphlet, ‘The Shortest Way with
the Dissenters.’ The citizens, however, pelted De Foe, not with rotten
eggs, but with flowers. This noble gate-house was removed when the
Strand was widened and the new Law Courts erected. It was rebuilt at
Meux Park, Waltham Cross, and its original site is marked by a column
surmounted by a griffin, representing the City arms (1880).

It would appear that the Lawyers in choosing sites just outside the City
boundaries for the Inns of their University were further influenced by
the ordinance of Henry III. (1234), which enjoined the Mayor and
Sheriffs to see to it that ‘no man should set up Schools of Law within
the City.’ The object of this prohibition is a matter of dispute;
Stubbs, for instance, maintaining that it applied to Canon Law, and
others[6] that only Civil Law was intended, the object being to confine
the clergy to the Theology and Canon Law, which seemed more properly
their province.

By the middle of the fourteenth century, then, we find the students of
what we may call a London University of National Law established in
their Inns or Hostels, which clustered about the boundaries of the City,
from Holborn to Chancery Lane, from Fleet Street to the River. The
Schools of Law, of which this University was composed, were
distinctively English, and the University itself developed upon the
peculiarly English lines of a College system, closely similar to that of
Oxford and Cambridge. The Inns of Court and Chancery were the Colleges
of Lawyers in the London University of Jurisprudence.

Here dwelt, and here were trained for the Courts those guilds or
fraternities of Lawyers, according to a scheme of oral and practical
education which they gradually evolved. Trade Guilds were the basis of
medieval social life, and medieval Universities were, in fact, nothing
more nor less than Guilds of Study.[7] The four Inns of Court survive
to-day as instances of the old Guilds of Law in London, and the lawyers,
in their relations with the Courts, the public and solicitors, seem to
represent still a highly organized Trade Union.

The Inns of Court, then, have always exhibited, and still retain, the
salient features of a University based upon the procedure of the
medieval Guild. Just as, in other Universities, no one was allowed to
teach until he had served an apprenticeship of terms, and, having been
duly approved by the Masters of their Art, had received his degree or
diploma of teaching; just as no butcher or tailor was allowed to ply his
trade until he had qualified himself and had been duly approved by the
Masters of his Guild, so in the Masters of these Guilds of Law was
vested the monopoly of granting the legal degree, or call to practise at
the Bar, to apprentices who had served a stipulated term of study and
passed the ordeal of certain oral and practical preparation. And as
though to emphasize beyond dispute the Collegiate nature of these
Societies, we find that each one of them made haste to provide itself
with buildings and surroundings, which still present to us, in the midst
of the dirt and turmoil of busy London, something of the charm and
seclusion and self-sufficiency of an Oxford College, with its Hall and
Chapel, its residential buildings, its Library, and grassy quadrangles,
and its Gateway to insure its privacy.

The same system of discipline, of celibate life, of a common Hall, of
residence in community, and of compulsory attendance at the services of
the Church, which marked the ordinary life of a medieval University, was
repeated at the Inns of Court.

And the kind of Collegiate Order into which they shaped themselves was
also shown by the several grades existing within the Societies
themselves. The word ‘barrister’ itself perpetuates the ancient
discipline of the Inns, where the dais of the governing body, or
Benchers, corresponding to the High Table of an Oxford College, was
separated by a bar from the profane crowd of the Hall. The Halls of the
Inns were not only the scenes of that business of eating and drinking,
the ‘dinners’ to which so much attention was devoted, and by which the
students ‘eat their way to the Bench,’ but also the centres of the
social life and educational system of these Guilds.

Dugdale gives at length the degrees of Tables in the Halls of the
Inns–the Benchers’ Tables, the tables of the Utter Barristers, the
tables of the Inner-Bar, and the Clerks’ Commons, and, without the
screen, the Yeoman’s Table for Benchers’ Clerks.

The _Utter-_ or _Outer Barristers_ ranked next to the Benchers. They
were the advanced students who, after they had attained a certain
standing, were called from the body of the Hall to the first place
outside the bar for the purpose of taking part in the _moots_ or public
debates on points of law. The _Inner Barristers_ assembled near the
centre of the Hall.

‘For the space of seven years or thereabouts,’ says Stow, ‘they frequent
readings, meetings, boltinges, and other learned exercises, whereby
growing ripe in the knowledge of the lawes, and approved withal to be of
honest conversation, they are either by the general consent of the
Benchers or Readers, being of the most auncient, grave and iudiciall men
of everie Inn of the Court, or by the special priviledge of the present
Reader there, selected and called to the degree of Utter Barristers, and
so enabled to be Common Counsellors, and to practise the law, both in
their Chambers, and at the Barres.’

Readers, to help the younger students, were chosen from the Utter
Barristers. From the Utter Barristers, too, were chosen by the Benchers
‘the chiefest and best learned’ to increase the number of the Bench and
to be Readers there also. After this ‘second reading’ the young
Barrister was named an Apprentice at the Law, and might be advanced at
the pleasure of the Prince, as Stow says, to the place of Serjeant, ‘and
from the number of Serjeants also the void places of Judges are likewise
ordinarily filled.’ ‘From thenceforth they hold not any roome in those
Innes of Court, being translated to the Serjeants’ Innes, where none
but the Serjeants and Judges do converse’ (Stow, i., pp. 78, 79).

Upon the Benchers, or Ancients, devolved the government of the Inn, and
from their number a treasurer was chosen annually.

_Readings_ and _Mootings_ would seem to have been the chief forms of
legal training provided by the Societies, and they may be said roughly
to represent the theoretical and practical side of their system of
education. As to Readings, the procedure in general was as follows:
Every year the Benchers chose two Readers, who entered upon their duties
to the accompaniment of the most elaborate ceremonial and feasting. Then
upon certain solemn occasions it was the duty of one of them to deliver
a lecture upon some statute rich in nice points of law. The Reader would
first explain the whole matter at large, and after summing up the
various arguments bearing on the case, would deliver his opinion. The
Utter Barristers then discussed with him the points that had been
raised, after which some of the Judges and Serjeants present gave their
opinions in turn.[8]

I have referred to the _feasting_ that attended the appointment of the
Readers. We have seen that medieval Universities were Guilds of
Learning, scholastic fraternities of masters or students, who framed
rules and exacted compliance with certain tests of skill, precisely in
the same way as did the masters and apprentices of ordinary manual
trades. It was a universal feature of the Guilds, whether of manual
crafts or of Learning, that the newly-elected Master was expected to
entertain the Fraternity to which he had been admitted, or in which he
had just been raised to the full honours of Mastership. And just as at
Oxford, Cambridge, or Paris, a Master was obliged to give a feast, or
even some more sumptuous form of hospitality, such as a tilt or tourney,
upon the attainment of his degree, so at the Inns of Court the
newly-appointed Reader was obliged by custom to entertain the Benchers
and Barristers in Hall. It was the general experience everywhere that
such entertainments tended to increase in splendour and costliness, and
to be a severe tax upon the resources of the new Masters, and a check,
consequently, upon the number of aspirants. So here the excessive
charges attending Readers’ feasts led to a decrease in the Readers,
which was regarded as tending to ‘an utter overthrow to the learning and
study of the Law,’ and the Justices of both Benches accordingly issued
an order insisting upon their observance, and at the same time
regulating the amount that a Reader might expend upon ‘diet in the

_Moots_ were a kind of rehearsal of real trials at the Bar. They were
cases argued in Hall by the Utter and Inner Barristers before the

When the horn had blown to dinner, says Dugdale, a paper containing
notice of the Case which was to be argued after dinner was laid upon the
salt. Then, after dinner, in open Hall, the mock-trial began. An Inner
Barrister advanced to the table, and there propounded in Law-French–an
exceedingly hybrid lingo–some kind of action on behalf of an imaginary
client. Another Inner Barrister replied in defence of the fictitious
defendant, and the Reader and Benchers gave their opinions in turn.

As in other Universities, other subjects besides Law were included in
the educational curriculum.

‘Upon festival days,’ says Fortescue, who wrote in the seventeenth
century, ‘after the offices of the Church are over, they employ
themselves in the study of sacred and profane history; here everything
which is good and virtuous is to be learned, all vice is discouraged and
banished. So that knights, barons, and the greatest nobility of the
kingdom often place their children in those Inns of Court, to form their
manners, and to preserve them from the contagion of vice.’

As time went on, in fact, the Inns of Court gradually changed their
character, and became a kind of aristocratic University, where many of
the leading men in politics and literature received a general training
and education.

And whilst Oxford and Cambridge, essentially more democratic, drew their
students chiefly from the yeoman and artisan class, the Inns of Court
became the fashionable colleges for young noblemen and gentlemen.

Throughout the Renaissance, indeed, the Inns of Court men were the
leaders of Society, and the Gentlemen of the Long Robe laid down the
law, not only upon questions of politics, but upon points of taste, of
dress, and of art.

In the reign of Henry VI. the four Inns of Court contained each 200
persons, and the ten Inns of Chancery 100 each. The expense of
maintaining the students there was so great that ‘the sons of gentlemen
do only study the Law in these hostels.’

‘There is scarce an eminent lawyer who is not a gentleman by birth and
fortune,’ says Fortescue; ‘consequently they have a greater regard for
their character and honour.’

And John Ferne, a student of the Inner Temple, wrote,[9] in 1586,
especially commending the wisdom of the regulation that none should be
admitted to the Houses of Court except he were a gentleman of blood,
since ‘nobleness of blood, joyned with virtue, compteth the person as
most meet to the enterprizing of any publick service.’

Shortly after the accession of James I., a royal mandate denied
admission to a House of Court to anyone that was ‘not a gentleman by

‘The younger sort,’ says Stow (1603), ‘are either gentlemen, or the sons
of gentlemen, or of other most welthie persons.’

It is one of the almost unvarying features of a Guild that a fixed
period of apprenticeship must be served before admission to be a Master.
The term of apprenticeship in the Inns of Court has varied with each
Society, and in different epochs.

In June, 1596, the period of probation which must be spent by a student
in attending preliminary exercises in the Inns, before graduating in
Law, was limited by an ordinance of the Judges and Benchers to seven
years. Before that date the ‘exercises’ necessary for ‘a call to the
Bar’ occupied eight years, during which twelve grand moots must be
attended in one of the Inns of Chancery, and twenty petty moots in term
time before the Readers of one of the greater Societies.

But in 1617, in a ‘Parliament’ of the Benchers of the Inner Temple, it
was ordained that ‘no man shall be called to the Bar before he has been
full eight years of the House.’ Nor was lapse of time to be considered
sufficient without proportionate acquisition of learning. Only ‘painful
and sufficient students’ were to be called, who had ‘frequented and
argued grand and petty moots in the Inns of Chancery, and brought in
moots and argued clerks’ common cases within this House.’ A proviso
against outside influence was added by the injunction that ‘anyone who
procured letters from any great person to the Treasurer or Benchers in
order to be called to the Bar, should forever be disqualified from
receiving that degree within that House.’

In the seventeenth century, however, ‘readings’ and ‘mootings’ alike
fell into desuetude, and official instruction practically disappeared.
The Inns became merely formal institutions, residence within the walls
of which, indicated by the eating of dinners, was alone necessary for
admittance to the Bar. The loss of the Law was the gain of Letters. A
new class of students, educated in literature and politics, and highly
born, were bred up to take their place in the direction of affairs and
the criticism of writers.

‘When the “readings” with their odds and ends of law-French and Latin
went out into the darkness of oblivion, polite literature stepped into
their place. “Wood’s Institutes” and “Finch’s Law” shared a divided
reign with Beaumont and Fletcher, Butler and Dryden, Congreve and Aphra
Behn. The “pert Templar” became a critic of _belles lettres_, and
foremost among the wits, whereas his predecessors had been simply
regarded by the outer world as a race that knew or cared for little else
save black-letter tomes and musty precedents. Polite literature
ultimately came to clothe the very forms of law with an elegance of
diction not dreamed of in the philosophy of the older jurists, and thus
deprived an arduous study of one of its most repellent features.’[10]

Another cause which greatly contributed to the brilliant record of the
Inns as homes of Literature and the Drama, as well as of the Law, was
the rule which, up till quite a few years ago, compelled Irish
Law-students to keep a certain number of terms in London prior to ‘call’
at the King’s Inn, Dublin. Daniel O’Connell, at Lincoln’s Inn, Curran,
Flood, Grattan, the orators; Tom Moore, the poet, and Richard Brinsley
Sheridan, the dramatist, at the Temple, are among the later ‘Wild
Irishmen’ who owed something to the London Inns in accordance with this
rule, and rewarded the Metropolis with their eloquence and wit.

In modern times the need of general regulations as to qualification by
the keeping of terms and of examinations as a guarantee of competency
has been recognized.

After over 200 years of survival as an obsolete office, Readerships have
been revived again to perform their proper functions. ‘A council of
eight Benchers, representing all the Inns of Court, was appointed to
frame lectures “open to the members of each society,” and five
Readerships were established in several branches of legal science
(1852). Attendance at these lectures was made compulsory, unless the
candidate preferred submitting to an examination in Roman and English
Law and Constitutional History. Three years


THE date of its erection (1570) is in the stained-glass window on the
right. In this Hall Queen Elizabeth may have danced with Sir Christopher
Hatton, and here Shakespeare’s ‘Twelfth Night’ was first performed (see
pp. 75-78).]

later, a Royal Commission advised the establishment of a preliminary and
final examination for all Bar students, together with the formation of a
Law University with power to confer degrees in Law. The suggestions of
the Commission were only partially acted upon, and then not till 1870,
when Lord Chancellor Westbury succeeded in getting a preliminary
examination in Latin and English subjects adopted and the final
examination made obligatory.’[11]

And it is pleasant to note, too, that about the same time (1875) the
custom of the ancient mootings, so useful for promoting ready address
and sound knowledge of the Law among the aspirants to the Bar, was
revived at Gray’s Inn.

The discipline which the Inns of Court enforced upon their students
corresponded in general to that exercised by an Oxford or Cambridge

Fines and ‘putting out of Commons’ were the usual forms of punishment,
though the power of imprisoning ‘gentlemen of the House’ for wilful
misdemeanour and disobedience ‘was sometimes exercised by the Masters of
the Bench.’[12]

Attendance at Divine Service was insisted upon, and the wearing of long
beards forbidden. A beard of over three weeks’ growth was subject to a
fine of 20s. A student’s gown and a round cap must be worn in Hall and
in Church, and gentlemen of these Societies were forbidden to go into
the City in boots and spurs, or into Hall with any weapon except
daggers. They were forbidden to keep Hawkes, or to ill-treat the
Butlers. They were not allowed to play shove-groat. In the reign of
Elizabeth, by an order of the Judges for all the Inns of Court, the
wearing of a sword or buckler, of a beard above a fortnight’s growth, or
of great hose, great ruffs, any silk or fur, was equally forbidden, and
no Fellow of these Societies was allowed to go into the City or suburbs
‘otherwise than in his gown according to the ancient usage of the
gentlemen of the Inns of Court,’ upon penalty of expulsion for the third
transgression. The wearing of gowns of a sad colour was enjoined by
Philip and Mary, and long hair, or curled, was forbidden as surely as
white doublets and velvet. These are echoes of the ordinary sumptuary
laws of the period.

‘There is both in the Inns of Court and the Inns of Chancery,’ says
Fortescue, ‘a sort of an Academy or Gymnasium fit for persons of their
station, where they learn singing and all kinds of music, dancing and
Revels.’ These forms of recreation constituted, indeed, the lighter side
of the educational and social life of the Inns.

All-Hallowe’en, Candlemas, and Ascension Day, were the grand days for
‘dancing, revelling, and musick,’ when, before the Judges and Benchers
seated at the upper end of the Hall, the Utter Barristers and Inner
Barristers performed ‘a solemn revel,’ which was followed by a
post-revel, when ‘some of the Gentlemen of the Inner-Barr do present the
House with dancing.’[13] On occasions of more particular festivity, even
so great dignitaries as the Lord-Chancellor, the Justices, Serjeants,
and Benchers, would dance round the coal fire which blazed beneath the
louvre in the centre of the Hall, whilst the verses of the Song of the
House rang out in rousing chorus, like the song of the Mallard of All
Souls, at Oxford.

Dugdale gives the order of the Christmas ceremonies in delightful
detail: ‘At night, before supper, are revels and dancing, and so also
after supper, during the twelve daies of Christmas. The antientest
Master of the Revels is after dinner and supper to sing a carol or song,
and command other gentlemen then there present to sing with him and the
company.’ On Christmas Day ‘Service in the Church ended, the gentlemen
presently repair into the Hall, to breakfast with Brawn, Mustard and
Malmsey,’ and so forth. The good-fellowship and the long evenings of
Christmastide had natural issue in the production of plays and masques
in these Halls, by students who have always been in close touch with the
drama. It is not surprising, therefore, that one of Shakespeare’s plays
was written for Twelfth Night, and first produced by the students of
Law, at the Temple, for this merry and convivial season (see Chapter

On St. Stephen’s Day the Lord of Misrule was abroad, and at dinner and
afterwards games and pageants were performed about the fire that burned
in the centre of the Hall, and whence the smoke escaped through the open
chimney in the roof. For instance: ‘Then cometh in the Master of the
Game apparelled in green velvet, and the Ranger of the Forest also, in a
green suit of satten, bearing in his hand a green bow and divers arrows,
with either of them a hunting horn about their necks; blowing together
three blasts of Venery, they pace round about the fire three times.’
They make obeisance to the Lord Chancellor, and then ‘a Huntsman cometh
into the Hall, with a Fox and a Purse-net, with a Cat, both bound at the
end of a staff, and with them nine or ten couple of Hounds. And the Fox
and Cat are by the Hounds set upon, and killed beneath the fire’

The Post Revels, we are told, were ‘performed by the better sort of the
young gentlemen of the Societies, with Galliards, Corrantoes, or else
with Stage-plays.’ Masques were frequently performed by the members of
the Inns, and Sir Christopher Hatton first obtained Queen Elizabeth’s
favour by his appearance in a masque prepared by the lawyers.

Besides the solemnities of Christmas and Readers’ Feasts, the _Antique
Masques and Revelries_, as Wynne in his ‘Eunomus’ observes (ii., p.
253), ‘introduced upon extraordinary occasions, as to the grandeur of
the preparations, the dignity of the performers and of the spectators,
at which our Kings and Queens have condescended to be so often present,
seem to have exceeded every public exhibition of the kind.’

One famous masque was presented by the four Inns of Court to Charles I.
and Henrietta (1633), which cost some £24,000. So pleased were the King
and Queen with ‘the noble bravery of it,’ and the answer implied in it
to Prynne’s ‘Histrio Mastix,’ that they returned the compliment by
inviting 120 gentlemen of the Inns of Court to the masque at Whitehall
on Shrove Tuesday.

If these and other old customs have fallen into abeyance, the
traditional spirit of sociability is far from being dead, and on ‘Grand
Nights’ their old habit of hospitality is gratefully revived by the Inns
of Court in favour of famous men, who are honoured as their guests.

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